Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: Pride and Pyramids
by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb

Fifteen years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy are living their happy ever after, splitting their time between Pemberley and their London home and raising their six lively children. A surprise visit from Colonel Fitzwilliam's brother, Edward, fires Elizabeth with a desire for travel, as Edward has been infected with the Regency craze for Egyptology.

Their Egyptian adventure sees a romance for Edward as well as buried treasure, a lost tomb and the mystery of the desert. But at the heart of the novel is the enduring love of Lizzy and Darcy as they raise their children and face the challenges and delights their continuing life together brings.

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It’s summertime!  The perfect time for a fun, sunshiny read.  And if you’re a fan of all things Darcy and Indiana Jones, Pride and Pyramids might be a great fit for you.  The talented Amanda Grange has partnered with the Egyptian scholar Jacqueline Webb to bring us an exciting adventure in the exotic lands of the pharaohs and secret treasures. 

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have been married for fifteen years in this sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  They are as happy as ever, enjoying their children and the years they have had together. They are given the opportunity to pack up the entire family for a long journey to Egypt, spending months away on a grand adventure.  Colonel Fitzwilliams’s younger brother Edward is one of the instigators of this plan, as he is on a particular quest and is always in need of benefactors for his work with the esteemed archeologist Sir Matthew Rosen.

Along with Edward Fitzwilliam and the Darcy clan, the young Mr. Paul Inkworthy joins them as the official artistic painter of the expedition.  He is commissioned to capture the essence of their journey in portraits and drawings along the way.  His talent is essential, as cameras were not available in that day to memorialize grand journeys such as this.  Paul is pleased to discover that the Darcys have taken on Sophie Lucas, youngest sister to Elizabeth’s dear friend Charlotte Lucas Collins.  Along with female companionship for Mrs. Darcy, she will offer the role as nanny for the young children.  Sophie is young and attractive, and finds herself in a bit of a love triangle between two fellows in the story.

Pride and Pyramids is a fun, light read for these summer days.  I enjoyed spending time with Austen’s characters in this adventure.  Grange and Webb did an excellent job in not only capturing the essence of the Darcys, but also the details of Egyptian history and mythology. Much like the Indiana Jones movies, this novel captures adventure, history, romance and a bit of spiritual magic.  The interaction between the characters was realistic, and I liked how the authors kept the romantic aspects of the story very chaste, yet delectable at the same time.

If you’re looking for an unexpected diversion in the lives of Jane Austen’s characters, I certainly recommend this novel to you.  We are whisked away from the shades of Pemberley into the wilds of Egypt, where danger lurks around every turn.  The struggle between good and evil is readily apparent, unfolding in a way that I found to be very entertaining.  Those headed out on their own summer expeditions would do well to pack this in their travel case, and those remaining stateside can have an adventure of their own with this one. Amanda Grange has succeeded again, and I applaud her partnering with Jacqueline Webb.  They made a great team, and I hope they collaborate again in the future.

Connect with Amanda Grange


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway:
Christina Dudley of The Beresfords

The Calico Critic offers a big welcome to our guest blogger Christina Dudley, author of The Beresfords.  As fan of Austenesque fiction, I myself am looking forward to reading this nod to Mansfield Park in the near future.  In the meantime, here are a few thoughts from Christina and a nice giveaway!

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Although Austen described Emma Woodhouse as “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like,” as the centuries have passed, it turns out far more abuse has actually been heaped on Fanny Price of Mansfield Park. Yes, Emma may be interfering and snobby, but Fanny—! Even Austen’s niece Anna Austen LeFroy “could not bear” her, and Austen’s own mother deemed Fanny “insipid.” Why the hate?

Anna Austen Lefroy,

I think Fanny suffers from the Not-Elizabeth-Bennet Syndrome, just as MP suffers in readers’ estimation as the Not-Pride-and-Prejudice. Fanny doesn’t sparkle and enchant; she watches from the wings, observing all but acting little (pun intended). When Mary Crawford comes along, sparkling and enchanting like an Elizabeth Bennet gone to the Dark Side, she steals Fanny’s horse, Fanny’s health, Fanny’s beloved Edmund, and Fanny’s emotional well-being, without Fanny lifting a finger in defense. Fanny Price has nothing, it seems, but the power to say No. Yet much of the novel turns on this power of Fanny’s. With her No to the amateur theatrical and its attendant misbehaviors, and with her No to the wiles of Henry Crawford, Fanny alone emerges with her self-respect and integrity intact.

Maybe if we let her hair
down and give her pouty lips
and cleavage, people will warm to her..?
Besides its passive heroine, Mansfield Park has two more strikes against it for modern readers: Fanny’s sincere religiosity and Edmund’s unsexy career choice. For their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed 15,000 Harlequin novels and came up with this top-ten list of romance hero professions:
  1. Now there's a hero.
  2. Cowboy
  3. Boss
  4. Prince
  5. Rancher
  6. Knight
  7. Surgeon
  8. King
  9. Bodyguard
  10. Sheriff

But wait! They left off “clergyman”! Exactly. Now, I know Harlequin novels are not Austen novels, but they, like all the Austen adaptations and sequels and updates, are descendents of her work. The hillbilly cousins who show up to the family reunion.

So given all poor Fanny’s disadvantages, why did I choose to write The Beresfords, a modern update of Mansfield Park? Four reasons:

  1. Mansfield Park is one of my favorite Austen novels, P&P and Persuasion being the others. MP features some of Austen’s best humor (not to mention the only dirty joke in her entire oeuvre, courtesy of Mary Crawford!), richest characterizations, and most detailed windows into her time and place.
  2. Given Fanny’s religiosity and Edmund’s career choice, faith issues play a natural, integral role in a re-envisioning of the story. My whole reading life has been spent on “secular” books, and I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fiction, per se, but I get tagged as such because I often write about churchgoing characters and things they wrestle with. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in contemporary secular fiction, churchgoing characters tend to be either (1) closet molesters or, (2) hypocritical as all-get-out. There are exceptions, of course, but not many. The exceptions prove the rule.
  3. I wanted to give Fanny her own voice, to make her more sympathetic. Recently, MP was made into an opera, and as the Austenonly blogger who attended noted, “…the internalized dialogues of Fanny Price are simply crying out to be translated into arias when she can address us, her audience, with some passion about the dreadful goings on around her.” The best way to make a potentially unsympathetic character sympathetic? Let her tell her side of the story, as my “Frannie” does.
  4. And finally, I was ticked at dear Jane for the ending of Mansfield Park. After all that Fanny has been through, things turn around for her in one sentence?! (And not even a very detailed sentence!) Fanny suffers more than any other Austen heroine, with the possible exception of Anne Elliott in Persuasion, but Anne gets a delicious conclusion, complete with detailed, heartfelt confession by Captain Wentworth. How could Austen so phone it in, when it came to Fanny? This absolutely had to be remedied.

So meet The Beresfords.

Raised with four older stepcousins in a conservative, churchgoing family, Frannie Price teeters on the brink of adolescence in the summer of 1985. Her timidity and awkwardness make her easy to overlook, yet she has one true friend in her cousin Jonathan. Jonathan, her childhood champion and the best person she knows. But when the Grant twins enter her life, Frannie’s world turns upside down. Not only does the sly and charming Eric Grant set her girl cousins against each other, but his flirtatious sister makes off with Jonathan’s heart.

Only Frannie sees the faults running beneath the family landscape—not that anyone’s asking her opinion. Not her strict Uncle Paul, not her beloved Jonathan, and certainly not the Grants, who, after having their way with the rest of the Beresfords, turn their sights on her. What’s a girl to do? And why does she feel, in this uncharted territory, like God left her at the border?

With sympathy, humor and more than a nod to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, The Beresfords chronicles Frannie’s coming of age, when all around her is coming apart.

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Probably only a small percentage of my reader base have read Mansfield Park, so if I can’t convince you to love the Austen novel, don’t let it stop you from spending time with my Frannie!

A misleading Venn diagram, in which the author’s
readership appears disproportionately large.
But you get the idea.

And finally, if you live in the greater Seattle area, I will be reading from and signing copies of The Beresfords at University Book Store Bellevue, Wednesday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. Come talk Austen with me, and invite me to your book club!

E-Book Giveaway of The Beresfords!

Now that Christina has piqued your interest in The Beresfords, she has generously offered to give away a Kindle edition of her book!  Remember, even if you don't own a Kindle, you can still read these versions on Kindle's Cloud Reader on your computer, or even on a Kindle app for your phone or iPad. Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!

  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on July 29th, 2012.
  • Contest is open to those with an account to receive contest prize.
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday, July 29th.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.  This email address must be the same one you use to log in to your Amazon account, as it is where the e-book will be sent.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form.  For example, if you leave a blog post comment and would like it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the form.
  • You may tweet about the giveaway once per day for bonus entries. Please report the direct URL to the tweet in the Rafflecopter form.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.
  • After contact is established with the winner via email, the results will be published in the Rafflecopter widget below, and in a post on The Calico Critic's Facebook group wall.

If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Friday, July 6, 2012

DVD Review: Walk His Trail by EthnoGraphic Media

In recent years, EthnoGraphic Media has produced three incredible films chronicling the events surrounding the death of several Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) missionaries in the Amazon Jungle in 1956.  Beyond the Gates of Splendor tells the story of these missionaries in dramatic documentary fashion, with reenactments and testimony from surviving family members.  End of the Spear tells the same story, but has more of a feature film approach with actors playing the roles of those involved. The Grandfathers is a highly stylized documentary told from the point of view of the grandson of one of the victims.  I highly recommend all of these productions, and you can read a more detailed review of the latter film here on The Calico Critic.

EthnoGraphic media has taken material from all three of these works and put together a movie message series for pastors and church leaders to use in teaching to their congregations.  The Walk His Trail DVD is divided into three lessons.  Each compelling lesson has footage from a corresponding EGM film, with inserted commentary from Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint.

Lesson 1:  Beyond the Gates of Splendor 

The theme of this episode is sacrifice. The MAF missionaries sacrificed their lives to convey God’s message to the Waodani people. They understood that when we give up something now, it’s not sacrifice, it’s an investment.

Steve also conveys the message that God has a plan for all of us, and will someday make sense of pain and loss.  When life beats us up, we want someone to come to us who can relate to our pain.  He can relate to us in a way that no one else can. The Lord is writing our story, and as we readers know, the Author always gets the last word.

Lesson 2 – End of the Spear

The theme of this episode is reconciliation. God has given us a message of reconciliation and he has made us his ambassadors of reconciliation to the world. This was powerfully shown in a scene when a former tribe member is explaining this concept to one of the Waodani men who speared the missionaries:

“Why didn’t the wood bee {airplane} men shoot us?”

“They came to tell you Waengongi {God} has a Son. He was speared, but he didn’t spear back. So the people spearing him would one day live well.”

This message led to the softening of the hearts of the Waodani, and an amazing transformation of these formerly murderous people.

Lesson 3 – The Grandfathers

The theme of this final episode is heritage.  It’s very much the story of Jesse Saint, grandson of Nate Saint. As it’s told from the perspective of a much younger individual, the style is very artistic and modern, and I was completely riveted by the full film when I saw it last year. ThisWalk His Trail lesson captures the feel of the film and also adds in Steve’s commentary as well.  A particularly compelling moment comes when Steve recounts his crisis of faith during a family tragedy, and how a Waodani was the one that God used to comfort him in his moment of grief.  The heritage of the Saint family is not only carried on in the life of Jesse Saint, but in the lives of the Waodani.

All three of the Walk His Trail episodes would make for an amazing teaching series for any pastor or church leader.  The basic themes of sacrifice, reconciliation and heritage are related in a way that both unbelievers, new Christians and mature Christians can be blessed from.  The DVD is structured in such a way that each lesson can be played in full for about 30 minutes, or the lessons can be played with built in breaks, to give time for further lecturing and/or group discussion.

Given the intense nature of the Waodani before their conversion, I would not recommend this series for young children.  There are scenes of people getting speared, and impaling injuries are clearly seen.  The recounting of many murders is discussed on multiple occasions. The tribal men wear loincloths with no coverings for their backsides, and in some scenes, the women are topless in their natural habitat.  Nothing is gratuitous; life is portrayed in a realistic fashion.

There is less of the mature content in the Walk His Trail DVD than in the full-length features.  However, because of the PG-13 material, I would not recommend the films or Walk His Trail lessons to be shown to a general church audience where children or the easily offended are about.  It would probably be best to be shown in a small group setting, or at an evening church program when the audience has been given advance notice of the content they are about to witness.

The events chronicled in the EthoGraphic Media films are difficult, but the overall message is a glorious one, and I cannot recommend all of these videos highly enough.  The story of the MAF missionaries and the Waodani people is truly inspirational. If you are struggling with forgiveness or pain in your life, God’s message of hope conveyed in these films can give you the strength and comfort you are looking for.  As Steve Saint states, “God wants your will as His quill and your life as His slate.”  That can happen if we walk His trail.

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For more information on Walk His Trail and how your church leadership can receive a copy, visit the EthnoGraphic Media website here.

EGM Films - Walk His Trail Series

Film Trailers

Walk His Trail

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

End of the Spear

The Grandfathers

Mission Aviation Fellowship



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